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Winners Karan Jerath, Nicole Ticea and Raymond Wang

 WASHINGTON — An 18-year-old Indian-American boy has won the prestigious Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award in the US for inventing a device that quickly shuts down undersea oil spills. Karan Jerath of Friendswood, Texas, claimed the USD 50,000 top prize yesterday at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (IISEF).

Jerath was also one of the five students selected for the Intel and Indo-US Science and Technology Forum Visit to India Award. Jerath designed a sturdy device that can collect the oil, gas and water spewing from a broken well on the seafloor.

“Sensors inside the 350-ton device would measure the temperature, pressure and density of the mix of gases and fluids erupting from a well,” Karan said. “A computer would then calculate how valves in the gadget should be adjusted so that the gas and oil can be collected. That should stop a spill in its tracks. The device could help prevent an ecological catastrophe. It also would reduce cleanup costs.”

The top position was shared by two other teen researchers.

One developed a technique to more quickly diagnose infections by HIV. The other used sophisticated software to improve the flow of air inside aircraft cabins that could reduce the transmission of disease among passengers.

Maya Ajmera, an Indian descent who heads the Society for Science and the Public that conducts the IISEF, congratulated the winners and said, “These talented young students are the problem solvers and innovators of their generation.”

Scores of Indian-American students won awards in various categories, five of them getting the first award in their specialisations, biochemistry, behavioural sciences, environmental engineering, mathematics and energy physics.

The IISEF honours the world’s most promising high school student scientists, inventors and engineers selected through rigorous competitions held around the world.

Vandana Kumar

Vandana Kumar is a publishing executive with a 35-year track record in the industry. She leads the India Currents Foundation as President and CEO. As a new immigrant, she co-founded India Currents magazine...